I hadn't previously read anything by Graham Masterton, but had heard his name pop up in horror circles often enough that I knew I'd have to give him a go. That said, I'm not entirely convinced Ghost Virus is the best place to start, given its odd balance as a work that is both flat-out silly and a serious procedural with a whole lot of deliciously descriptive violence and carnage betwixt it all.
The fact is, the central premise behind Ghost Story is absolutely ludicrous. That premise? Killer clothes. And I don't mean in the sense of keen fashion and sharp ensembles, but literally clothes that murder - jackets that slaughter, sweaters hungry for blood, windbreakers that would snap your neck and dismember you in the street. Killer. Clothes. It's the sort of schlocky mass-market 80s pulp, or straight to SyFy Channel by way of The Asylum films, that is deliriously, eye-rollingly bad...but also perversely entertaining in its own charmingly idiotic way. It helps, some, that Masterton's own characters cannot believe the threat terrorizing their London suburb of Tooting Bec either, oftentimes rolling their own eyes right alongside readers. One almost has to wonder just how much expert-level trolling Masterton is conducting upon readers with this one. The police, at regular intervals, speak the reader's mind as they confusedly stammer, "None of this makes any sense."
Granted, Masterton makes a basic attempt at trying to square this ultimately nonsensical work against the rough framework of Tooting's diverse neighborhood, drawing on Pakistani and Lithuanian lore, with talk of djinns and ghosts and various other regional folklore. No matter what kind of hodgepodge justifications Masterton knits together to explain the inexplicable, the threat at the core of Ghost Virus is still utterly preposterous.
However, if you can either accept, or better still, look past the harebrained idea of demonic second-hand clothes, Ghost Virus is actually a pretty fun, pulpy romp that fans of the crazier 80s horror paperbacks should enjoy. The central premise is outlandish, but it's at least entertaining and Masterton's writing is smooth enough to keep the pages turning. And the violence. Dear lord, the violence! Masterton doesn't shy away from details, and there's a number of well-done, graphically depicted shock scenes as the owners of these possessed clothes wreak havoc on themselves, their lovers, and neighbors. There's moments of awful violence throughout, and if you revel in gore, Masterton will blanket you in buckets of blood and piles of innards.
My advice? Ignore the goofy premise, and read this one for the shock scenes. If you're a fan of silly horror, you ought to eat this one right up.
[Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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